I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made it possible for most of our students to learn in person since last August. Our talented faculty members also helped a variety of students learn from home in some cases all year and in some cases for a few days or weeks at a time. Every day, each parent chose to support our multi-layered system of keeping everyone healthy. Every day each student remembered to wear their mask, wash their hands, and keep their friends at an arm's distance or more. Throughout the long, cold, dark winter and early spring months, we shivered together and wore hats, coats, and mittens inside. We learned new skills and found joy and resilience within our wonderful community. Below are just a few examples of the excellence each WFS teacher and staff member has brought to our students and their parents.
In-person learning has enabled us to help students make up all the social and academic ground lost during the Spring 2020 pandemic lockdown. For instance, in August many of our first-grade students were reading well-below grade level if they were reading at all. Now, with Ms. Spatzier’s individualized attention, they have all advanced several reading levels, are ready for second grade and most importantly, they all love to read! Mrs. Marrazzo, with the help of Miss Macy, has fostered her students' social skills, creativity, and confidence in speaking to their classmates and even to the whole school during Meeting for Worship. We will soon see how they have grown as visual communicators during the PreK art exhibition in our final assembly.
Teachers have helped students learn about themselves. Mrs. DeMarco has shepherded her large, boisterous, and outspoken class through a year of extraordinary learning. Most recently, in their autobiography project, fifth-grade students reflected on who they are now and how they have learned disciplines and practices that will serve them in years to come. Mrs. Cope’s seventh-grade science class is capping a year of hands-on learning with researching elements from the periodic table and creating t-shirts depicting what is significant about their element. Whether by intent or happenstance, Mrs. Cope has helped each student choose an element that represents some aspect of who they are. For instance, Saige’s element is Neon and Will’s is Iron (ask him where the best steel for swords came from up through the late fifteenth century).
Learning skills and habits have been developed. Our youngest children, in Preschool, have become independent self-advocates. They love their routines and their play yard. Today they celebrated a friend’s birthday by sharing a story where they all reminded each other of what the author does and what the illustrator does. They also know what an exclamation point does!! Then they enjoyed a special snack (of course they washed their hands first). Mrs. Olsen and Mrs. Durdin have with deft and often invisible supports, helped these youngest learners acquire skills and habits of mind that will serve throughout their lives. Miss Luz has taught them Spanish in the most natural and successful way, just by talking with them.
The world has been explored. Mrs. Yearly has taken second grade on an extended tour of the continents. Recently, they were learning about all the unusual animals of the world’s smallest continent. Soon they will finish the year with their traditional Chinese feast. Recently, Avi earned a trip to the loft by adding books to his passport. He invited his friends to join him in the loft for their reading. Second-grade explorations have included the natural world right here in Cinnaminson.
Performances have happened alongside traditional academics. In addition to helping her third-grade students achieve beyond their own expectations (as experienced by all who watched the 3rd Grade Poetry Slam), Teacher Rachael’s students have gained so much confidence as mathematicians that they have successfully mastered more topics than normally covered in a year. She also led her colleagues in completing the academic portion of the NJAIS self-study. We will use this accreditation process to shape our work in the years to come. Mrs. Vosbikian juggled five levels of Middle School Math. Every single one of her students agrees that they are now confident math problem solvers. AJ Rawls stepped in to teach our eighth-grade math. Her students have benefitted from her thorough attention to their learning needs.
Our community was nurtured every day. Teacher Paige started every morning with a game or other ice breaker activity to better connect her two students who learned at home all year with their in-person classmates. Every Monday, these same fourth-grade students stood up in the gym, helped celebrate other students’ birthdays, read announcements, and told jokes. Most recently, the fourth grade displayed amazing research projects on famous New Jerseyans. Mrs. DiPasquale also successfully included two students who learned from home most of the year. She brought the natural world to her classes through a guinea pig, hatching chicks, hatching praying mantis, and butterflies. Mrs. D’s colleagues and I are also grateful for her leadership in continuing to improve the vertical integration of our language arts programs in the primary and elementary grades.
Research and critical thinking remained core to our teaching. Teacher Kristin Parry's seventh-grade historians have just completed a study of the Dust Bowl, its environmental causes, and its social consequences. Students are learning to analyze sources and choose the most reliable for their purpose. Even when her students are studying ancient or medieval periods, they are developing 21st-century skills and asking questions relevant to their lives today.
Excellence in teaching will always be a part of the Westfield experience. Mrs. Valerie Parry’s 8th-grade students have been hard at work preparing their speeches for graduation. These speeches tell us about the individual student. Collectively the speeches shine a light on Valerie’s excellent teaching. Each of her students this year agrees that she has taught them to be careful readers and thoughtful, successful writers.
Throughout the year you have experienced the musical creativity and learning led by Ms. Fielding. Your children have developed new skills and maintained healthy bodies with Coach Shane. He also restored WFS’s wonderful Field Day tradition! Under challenging circumstances and ever-changing “classroom” locations, Teacher Deborah and Teacher Alicia have developed the talents, confidence, and visual language of their young artists. Art education beautifully aligns with Friends education’s emphasis on experiential learning and learning as a process.
We have stayed Healthy in our buildings, our minds, and our bodies. Thank yous must go out to Maggie McHale and Laura Jaslow for ensuring students were able to focus on their learning with all of their energy. From the Apple Core newsletter to the speaker events on helping children through difficult times, through supporting children needing extra TLC, to developing and delivering a health curriculum to 5th-8th grades, our students have benefitted from all of their care. Nicole Cesaretti greeted children, cared for children, supported her colleagues in ways too numerous to list. Her smile and attention to everyone's needs helped brighten a challenging year.
We have supported families and each other. Janeen Smith brings special care and support to children who need to come to school early or stay late. With her vision, we have safely offered some athletic activities after school. She has created a summer camp program that has attracted more families than ever in WFS’s history offering camp. Her colleagues know they can count on her as a capable substitute teacher. Janeen is amply helped by Luz Vizi, Macy Infantado, and Lina Mazahreh. Based in the kindergarten as Mrs. D.’s assistant, Lina has joyfully stepped into every substitute situation asked of her. She even helped make sure every student had the correct tee shirt for Field Day. I know I can count on her to complete any task she is given. Macy gets up early every morning to provide care for students who need to arrive before 8 am. She provides warm loving support to our PreK students and will someday be a wonderful lead teacher. Christian Mattioni started out the year as the in-classroom assistant to Mrs. Vosbikian and Teacher AJ. He helped administer the online world language program and served as the front desk receptionist. Maddie Urbano joined us in November to support Mrs. Parry. Since April she has been the voice you hear when you call the school, the person who helps students enter the building, and a willing substitute whenever we needed one.
Even though our buildings have been closed to visitors and parents, George Meredith, Wayne Dixon, and Teresa Muscarnera have kept our buildings clean, functioning, and virus-free. They have also wrestled tents and other extra equipment all year long!
Even with the all-consuming pandemic, we are focused on our wider community. Lily Taylor, Carol Beaton, and Mary Rinck have each kept the school humming along with clear communications, successful work on fundraising, sound finances, and active, successful admissions.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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